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New Windows Media Player plays it all – except DVDs

Testers need nerves of steel

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A little bit of Windows Millennium Edition is available for download from those nice folks at Microsoft. Windows Media Player 7 is billed as being capable of doing everything you could ever want, including copying CDs to a hard disk, cataloguing your music collection and watching videos. This is obviously a new meaning of the word 'everything' as WMP7 can't play DVDs. And testers will need nerves of steel, too. The download site carries the usual warnings about not running beta software on production machines, but also includes the rather more dramatic "Once this technical preview is installed, it will overwrite your existing Windows Media Player file. It may be impossible to reinstall without reformatting the hard disk of your computer." But not knowing the meaning of the word "fear" we tried it anyway and it's actually pretty good. A few annoyances such as a propensity to connect to the Web at every opportunity whether you want it to or not, and a seeming inability to automatically download track listings for CDs (like the current Media Player and RealPlayer do) will surely be put right before the thing's finished. Copying an audio CD to hard disk (in Windows Media Format) is commendably simple and fast, and the resulting quality is not bad at all considering that WMF file sizes are only half that of MP3. You can then copy the files to a portable WMF player, enabling you to annoy fellow commuters. There's a choice of skins to customise the appearance of the thing and a selection of animations that twitch beguilingly in time with the music. With the caveats that WMP7 only runs under Win98 and Win2K and possibly requires a little light reformatting of the hard disk, it's worth a look. ® Link Media Player 7 can be downloaded here

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